Having worked as a family lawyer for over a decade, Shelby Timmins understood first-hand the challenges of people choosing to divorce in an acrimonious way. Too often, divorcing acrimoniously would lead to lengthy delays for their day in the Family Court, not to mention the emotional turmoil, financial stress and the end of the family unit. As a result, Shelby chose to walk away from how divorce is ‘traditionally’ done and established Divorce Done Differently, a family dispute resolution practice specialising in mediation and collaborative practice.
Insights spoke to Shelby about what inspired her to establish Divorce Done Differently, how her approach differs from traditional family law, and what she finds most rewarding about how she now works in the family law space.
“I think we would all be hard pressed to find a family lawyer who has practised in family law who hasn’t witnessed the destructive effects on families of ‘battling it out’ in court. There’s definitely a time and place for judicial determination, however it should be the last step, not the first,” said Shelby. “The reality is, relationships typically begin with emotion, yet we expect them to end with a legal process. This isn’t a realistic way to approach the breakdown of a relationship. After far too many years practising a ‘business as usual’ approach to family law, I realised there had to be a better way.”
A recent client of Divorce Done Differently remarked that their dispute resolution process doesn’t merely do divorce differently; it also teaches people how to do divorce better. As a boutique family dispute resolution process, Shelby’s business specialises in Mediation, Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice, Separation and Divorce Support, as well as Conflict Coaching and Family Law Wellness Workshops.
“I don’t wear my ‘lawyer hat’ anymore,” Shelby said. “I made a very conscious decision to establish a business that takes a wholistic approach to the process of separation and divorce. I have chosen to combine my specialist background in family law with a focus on educating parties about the healthier resolution options which fall outside of court.”
“I focus on the people involved and their needs. I ask clients what keeps them up at night, how they want things to look like for their family in the future and as difficult as it may be, to place themselves in the shoes of their former partner (even if only for a fleeting moment)! I try to get to the heart of what matters to the people involved, and if there are children involved, our focus is on coming to a resolution that is best for them.”
To achieve these outcomes, Shelby works with a broader network of professionals who can help with the process. “This might include a financial advisor or a child psychologist. And yes, it certainly includes encouraging people to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer who has a similar ethos to them.”
Since establishing Divorce Done Differently a little over a year ago, the firm has thrived.
“The little business idea that I had about a year ago has taken a life of its own and grown into an amazing resource for separating couples! It has allowed me to work with a team of professionals in a collaborative way to benefit our clients and their families.”
“Feedback suggests that people have been searching for a different way to amicably and respectfully end their relationships for a long time. People who are separating want to be able to create a future where they are in the driver’s seat - one that is healthy and constructive for all involved.
“Divorce shouldn’t be seen as the end of a family; it’s merely a re-organisation,” said Shelby.
By completely reimagining how couples and families approach divorce, Shelby has reinvigorated her love of law and making a difference in the lives of her clients.
“It’s so refreshing to be able to be creative in the family law space and to come up with ways for their ‘new family unit’ to move forward in a constructive manner. You’re helping families work through what’s undeniably an incredibly challenging time. Watching a family enter my office in a state of devastation and leave with a plan that they have created themselves and one that works for their family has a huge feel good factor.”
“We are all different. Families are all different. The way people separate and move forward with life is also different. I encourage the people I work with to ‘Think different |Be different |Do different’.”